Thursday, July 13, 2006

Bill Cole - The Quarter Man

Hailing from Buffalo, NY, Bill Cole didn’t join the sideshow until midlife. Born normal, he left home as a young man and rode freight trains as a hobo. He lived this carefree life until the age of 32, when the tables were suddenly turned as a train took a ride on him. Cole had accidentally fallen asleep on the railroad track and awoke in the hospital. His legs weren’t with him. Rather than seek pity, Cole was intent on taking care of himself and living as normally as possible. With the aid of small crutches, he learned to compensate for his lost limbs.
Billed as the Quarter Man, Cole found work doing chin-ups and handstands with Pete Kortes’ sideshow in the 1960s. With Sam Alexander’s show he entertained crowds by playing the harmonica. His next stop on the circuit was with the Hall and Christ sideshow. Chris Christ remembered his first day when Cole arrived ready to riff on his harmonica. Dismayed, Christ quickly spiced up the act by building a set of parallel bars. The Quarter Man polished up a new, more exciting presentation within days and performed on the bars for the next dozen years.


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